On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Union County.
Lora, Antell and Pressler. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lora, P.J.A.D.
Plaintiff Auxton Computer Enterprises, Inc. (Auxton) is engaged in the business of providing data processing consulting services and computer programmers as well as analysts on a contract basis to firms seeking such assistance. Defendant Spiridellis and Associates (Associates) is engaged in similar work. Defendant Nikolaos Spiridellis (Spiridellis), the president and principal officer of Associates, is and was the chief operating officer of that enterprise.
On June 22, 1972 defendant Parker entered Auxton's employ as a data processing consultant, assigned to work at various client-companies by Auxton. While on one such assignment at the American Broadcasting Company in 1975, Parker decided to look for another job and contacted several other prospective employers, including Spiridellis and Associates.
Parker and Spiridellis arranged for an interview, which Parker attended in January 1976 and which had been arranged by one Paul Chu, a former employee of Auxton who had gone to work for Associates. During that meeting Parker was questioned generally concerning his qualifications, and Spiridellis likewise informed Parker of the general operations of Associates.
The interview between Parker and Spiridellis ended favorably, with Spiridellis requesting Parker to return for an interview with one of Associates' senior technicians. That interview subsequently took place in February 1976. However, there was no job offer made to Parker at that time.
On March 18, 1976, a Thursday evening, Parker received a telephone call from Spiridellis, who asked him if he wanted to go for a technical interview the next day, March 19, 1976, at the offices of Pan American Corporation in Rockleigh, New Jersey, on behalf of Associates. Associates, which had been doing data processing consultative work for Pan Am for approximately six or seven months prior thereto, had an opportunity to enlarge their relationship with Pan Am by attending this technical interview with the prospect of providing their services with respect to Pan Am's passenger revenue data processing system which was then being either developed or improved upon. Associates had interviews lined up for five or six other technicians in addition to Parker.
When Spiridellis contacted Parker that evening, Parker, apparently suffering from a sore throat, did not give Spiridellis any definitive answer to his offer and request to have him appear in Rockleigh, New Jersey, on March 19, 1976. At the time Spiridellis called Parker, he knew that Parker was employed by plaintiff. However, neither Parker nor Spiridellis nor Associates had any knowledge that plaintiff was also seeking to obtain the Pan Am contract.
Parker subsequently determined to go to the Pan Am interview and called in sick insofar as his work at ABC on behalf of Auxton was concerned. On that day, by sheer coincidence, Lilla
Leuchs, a marketing representative of Auxton, was at the offices of Pan Am trying to solicit work for Auxton from Pan Am, and learned that Parker was attending an interview there.
On the following Monday, the interview having taken place on Friday, a representative of Auxton confronted Parker with the fact that he had been at Pan Am the previous Friday. Parker initially denied having been there, but later decided to offer his resignation, ...